For years many of us have heard (and said) that Black people don’t commit suicide. But the data on this reveal an alarmingly different truth, especially about our young people. Over the last 10 years, the suicide rate for Black teens 15-17 has increased drastically, from an overall rate of 3.9 suicides per 100,000 per year in 2007 to a rate of 7.9 per 100,000 per year in 2017. The group with the most dramatic increase was black girls: 1.2 suicides per 100,000 per year in 2007 and 4.0 per 100,000 per year in 2017. The suicide rate of Black boys jumped 77% over that same time period.
Moreover, a recent Pediatrics study reported that the rate of suicide attempts by black youth increased 73 percent from 1991-2017. As a recent NYTimes op-ed piece about this noted, Black boys also had a significant increase in the injuries they received from the attempts, which suggests the strength of their determination to succeed. The Pediatrics study notes that young Black people may be experiencing an increase in suicide risk factors, particularly depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a strong parent-child relationship can help prevent depression. To promote this strong relationship they suggest that we:
Set aside time each day to talk
Encourage your child to express his/her feelings
Praise his strengths, whether it’s in academics, music, athletics, relationships or other areas
Offer positive feedback when you notice positive behavior
Respond to your child’s anger with calm reassurance rather than aggression
If your child is reluctant to talk, spend time in the same room. Even if you’re not talking, a caring attitude can speak volumes.
GCP Parents, we can’t “fix” anxiety or depression in our children. But we can watch for signs, be supportive and get them help when they need it. If you have any concern that your son or daughter is having serious trouble coping, seek professional health from a therapist or mental health clinician. Put aside whatever biases you may have about seeking therapy and find help for your child. If you can’t get a referral from a friend, check out Psychology Today’s list of therapists who are African American and/or have experience with African American patients. Also check out this Zencare blogpost on how to find a Black therapist. Also check out The Steve Fund, a foundation dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color.